It's been amusing to see the different reactions from people. Some are glad to see him go (really?), most are saddened.
I can justify my joy, however. In his beautiful statement, he confirmed my deepest instinct: that his decision was reached in prayerful humility and the glowing satisfaction of the deceptively simple praise, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
Pope Benedict XVI was a scholar, and his election as supreme pontiff surprised everyone (except, of course, the Holy Spirit). He humbly resigned his quiet life of books and prayer to take up the keys of Saint Peter and lead a fickle rabble of wayward children. Like children, we took for granted that he would be with us forever. Perhaps that's a part of why God has called him into retirement.
In joy, I am humbled to see the Holy Father set this example of perfect servitude. For just as obedience demanded him to take up the mantle of leadership for Holy Mother Church, so obedience demands him to lay down this burden of honor. For each person, the service is different. Pope John Paul the Great was called by God to serve through suffering to the end of his life. Pope Benedict was called to serve for a much shorter time and, in the end, let go his noble ministry.
One can imagine how accepting God's call to resignation with grace is harder than accepting the responsibility in the first place. For this last example of complete docility and obedience--he lives the prayer "thy will be done"-- my heart is full and grateful.
Our Papa is not going on to the Heavenly Father, at least not yet; and he will still be here, with the fondness and prayers of a father who knows his work, for now, is done. For me, he has been--and shall continue to be--our faithful servant. Now let us look forward to the privilege of witnessing the tradition-steeped majesty of the Church in action and pray that the Holy Spirit is vigilant in sending us a new Vicar of Christ, to steer this reeling but unsinkable Ship through the 21st century.
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